If you’ve never heard of the name Daniel Y-Li Grove, it’s about time you get acquainted.
The youngest of three boys has got the film world talking. People are starting to sit up and listen.
I am a film and TV writer, director and producer living between Los Angeles and Berlin.
Born in Singapore. Parolled in Sydney. Was a journalist living in China before attending film school at the University of Southern California in late 2008.
In 2012, I directed a short called A Better Place Than This about the hangman of Changi prison in Singapore. In 2014, produced a feature film called A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a Persian vampire western.
My feature directorial debut The Persian Connection, a noir crime thriller set in the opium underworld of LA comes out in the US this summer.
What I’m trying to do is open the audience up to otherness, whether it be feminism, multiculturalism, sexuality, etc etc. The status quo needs shifting. And for me art is about testing the culture.
With our current film The Persian Connection, The Financial Times accused me of having “spiked the tonic of openmindedness with firewater.” I quite like that. For me the next question becomes, “how do I turn firewater into napalm?”
I was 13 living in Singapore doing theatre and a little TV work as an actor. Singapore was never the hot pocket for avant garde culture. The only cinema you were exposed to were American blockbusters or Chinese kung fu movies.
For the interesting stuff you had to go to Johor Bahru and get illegally. So, pirated VHS and VCDs were my early film education. And then the internet came along. I randomly purchased a film called Lost Highway by David Lynch staring Patricia Arquette and Bill Pullman. The film is a dark wild ride through Los Angeles. It was beguiling, confusing, sexually loaded and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It challenged me in more ways that I can think. I decided then and there I wanted to figure out how to make something like that.
How. (Did you/the film face any adversity? Either from competition or family/friends/naysayers/critics.)
Yup. Brown people doing things in a movie. No one wanted to invest.
People offered me decent money for the script so I would walk away and they could make it for caucasians A-listers. I thought that was pretty funny. I had constructed a story entirely about a certain immigrant experience and they wanted to buy it and re-write the whole thing for Americans. Of course, this was right before “diversity” was in fashion.
The film industry is like no other. It takes years and years to get projects off the ground. The Persian Connection took 4 years which is 3 less than the average. I think family members are still wondering why I still do this.
For me the most challenging ideas about how I think about the world have come from literature, cinema, theatre and painting. There’s a feeling when you finishing a great book that your perspective has been shifted. Great cinema is the same.
I believe in the power of art to shift the individual and therefore the culture. I think as a culture we’ve been inundated over the last few decades with vanilla. And if you’re consuming nothing but vanilla milkshakes you get fat, stupid and lazy. I’m trying to add some raspberries to the spread.
Follow Grove’s cinematic career here.
Here’s what the media has said about The Persian Connection (previously titled “The Loner”):